What about me? It isn’t fair
I’ve had enough, now I want my share
Can’t you see, I want to live
But you just take more than you give
Garry Frost and Frances Swan
On the night President-elect Trump was elected, I wrote a post about the David Austin rose, Sharifa Asma. It took all my strength not to comment on the outcome of the election because, along with many, many people, I was devastated. But, I reasoned, this blog is about food and gardens. A safe haven from political comment.
I come from a different perspective to each of those posts. My questions are, “How did it come to this?” and “How can a populist politician become President of the United States?” Whether we like it or not, Hitler started out as a populist politician in a time of economic hardship for the German people and Hitler, too, chose to blame scapegoats for the German people’s economic hardships. It’s a winning strategy.
Every one of us is wise in retrospect. All the commentators are telling us that it is, in part, the white working class male who catapulted Trump to one of the most powerful positions in the world.
From an Australian perspective, Clive Palmer, to a lesser degree, was the Australian equivalent of Donald Trump but our system of democracy is such that you cannot get to be the Prime Minister just because you have a lot of money. You have to join a political party and your colleagues have to vote for you. Although I sometimes cringe at the choices our politicians make, I am so glad that we, at least, have that security blanket. Luckily for us, Clive Palmer has disappeared from the political scene. If we had the same system as the States, he may very well have made it to the top.
Think about it… both men are very rich yet some how convinced the working class man that he was on their side. But really, the only side Clive Palmer and Donald Trump are on is their own.
I heard a news reporter ask President-elect Trump whether he went too far with his campaign rhetoric and his response to the effect, “I won”. From this response, I presume it was all about winning for him rather than what he was saying. It didn’t matter that his rhetoric was divisive and that he isolated a decent percentage of the American population. It didn’t matter that poor, disenfranchised people trusted him. It was all about Donald Trump.
So why did Donald Trump win the Presidential election or, more generally, why are populist politicians all the rage, even in Australia? Everyone is blaming the white working class man but, I say:
You and I helped. We are the ones who bought those cheap imported goods without turning our minds to the fact that local factory after local factory was closing down and many employees had little chance of getting new jobs. Now, all the local factories have closed down. OK, Australia was luckier than most. We had the “mining boom” but a lot of countries didn’t, and the mining boom is, officially, over.
Ages ago, when there was a choice between locally made or imported clothes, we happily bought the cheaper imports and now we moan that there are no Australian brands left. There would be if we had resisted the temptation to buy the cheaper alternatives.
And we buy fruit and vegetables from large supermarkets when those vegetables are picked by vulnerable illegal foreign workers who are used and abused by the system. And we buy cheap chicken which is reared inhumanely and, again, packed by people who aren’t getting a decent wage.
And when the right wing politicians demonised the unions, we didn’t stand up for the unions and argue that it was the unions who earned us the pay and the conditions of work we enjoy today. Now unions are weak and many, many Australians can only get casual contract work not full time permanent jobs and what do we do? We wonder how it happened.
And those unionists who were greedy and bullied co-workers and stole from their members: they are also to blame because it was their bad behaviour that allowed right wing politicians to argue that unionists are corrupt and have to be stopped.
And Left politics has to take its share of the blame, too. The white working class man started the Labor Party in Australia but it seems embarrassed about the association. Embarrassed to admit it is the unions who support it. Rather, the Labor Party prefers to court people like me, well educated and middle class.
And Hillary Clinton must take her fair share of blame, too. She called the Trump supporters “Deplorables”, when she should have been trying to understand the plight of the people who were so desperate they believed Mr Trump. No wonder the Deplorables took the badge and wore it with pride, much as the homosexual movement took the word “Queer”. Already Australian populist politicians are calling their supporters the “Deplorables” and rallying them.
Who represents those people who have lost their jobs because the mine, the timber mill, the factory or the abattoir they used to work in has closed down? Who represents those on social security, the disabled, the displaced, the refugees? Certainly not populist politicians like Trump and his ilk but, at least, they are pretending to. When you are clutching at straws, someone who asks for your vote, someone who says they care, someone who says they hear you, is better than some one who calls you “deplorable”.
Australia is a rich country and most here have a good standard of living but that is not the case in many Western Countries – countries our politicians are so keen to emulate. It is not possible to turn back the clock but, maybe, it is time to stop trying to improve our already ridiculously high standard of living. A standard of living that we have achieved at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the environment. Maybe it is time to stop trying to avoid paying our taxes but feel good about the fact that our taxes are providing services and support to those who need it.
And, surely, it’s time for mainstream Left politics to stop and listen, and then educate. To convince their supporters that their plight is not the fault of others whose only crime is be different from them. People who, more likely than not, are equally, or in most cases more, vulnerable.